Dandy & Randy DX
Two Best Friends Go Treasure Hunting, What Could Go Wrong?
Dandy & Randy DX is a retro-inspired 2D action game that feels right at home in its early 90s aesthetic. When I received a copy of this game, I honestly thought that it was a re-release of a classic title much like Moto Roader MC. Turns out this is a completely original title by Brazilian devs Asteristic Game Studio.
The game centers around the duo, Dandy Duck and Randy Rabbit, two archeologists who are in debt with the bank. They use this opportunity to fly to various locations in search of treasure to get them out of debt as well as find rare artifacts. If Tomb Raider didn't have a wealthy protagonist, this would be the plot for Dandy & Randy DX.
Like most co-op titles, the two characters are identical, encouraging co-op play. However, the game can be enjoyed via single-player just as well. Upon arriving at the first level, the residents warn the duo that the island has been taken over by pirates. On the next screen, the player encounters a wolf pirate, like clockwork. How do you defeat enemies? You go Super Mario Advance on them by picking up a turnip and launching at the wolf.
This is the main form of combat in Dandy & Randy DX, picking objects up and throwing them at enemies to defeat them. Eventually, you gain access to several different tools including a boomerang. The boomerang is not a weapon in this game like other titles, but rather it's used to hit inaccessible switches and items. It can also stun enemies to keep them in place, but ultimately it's a tool, much like the shovel is used to dig for items.
"I Can Try To Sell A Bottle Cap Like This?"
Dandy & Randy's main charm is in its childish light-hearted humor, similar to that of Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion. The characters, from the NPCs to the bosses themselves all have a unique charm to them. It never takes itself series much like other 16-bit era titles. By the end of the first island, I felt as if it was a good introduction to what I'd expect for the rest of the game.
Initially, the main antagonists are a group of pirates known as the NoGood Pirates. Turns out they beat the duo to the punch and are after the same treasure the protagonists are after. Along the way, the duo will meet two allies who will assist them on the grounds that "they aren't the pirates." Sally and Molly are identical to Randy and Dandy, just as different skins. It would have been cool if they had cutscenes of their own but each cutscene plays as if Randy and Dandy are the chosen characters.
It's Dangerous To Take Out A Loan, Use This
There are a total of six levels in the game, five of which exist on a single island. Each level has a different aesthetic, from sandy beaches, arid deserts, active volcanos, spooky forests, and icy mountains. While the enemies are unique to fit each level, the enemy types are the same. There are those who will give chase to the player while others will hide under the ground waiting to strike. Fighting enemies aren't needed as there's no leveling system. Sometimes it's beneficial to ignore them altogether.
Each level has four keys the player will need to find, cyan, red, grey, and gold. Each key opens up a barred path that will lead them closer to the boss. It's structured similarly to a "Metroidvania" but it plays itself more like a "Zelda-clone." Every level introduces a new gadget for the player to mess with, like the aforementioned boomerang in the first level. Players will use a hammer to break rocks, a hookshot to extend across hazards, and running shoes to, well, run fast.
Money Is The Root Of All Heart Capsules
Breaking the environment and finding treasure chests will net the player money. This can be spent on the friendly shop-keep, Oinky, in exchange for hearts, health capsules, and others. It's best to save as much money as possible to spend it on heart capsules as it's greatly needed. Every time the player takes damage, they lose a heart as well as some money. If the player loses all of their hearts, it's game over. On harder difficulties, they lose half of their money which the player can return to where they died and reclaim their runes---money.
The maps aren't the largest seen in games like these, but they are decently sized. The first level will probably take the longest to complete for most players as it introduces many things to the player. There are also two boss fights during that level, something that won't happen until later on in the game. Once players get a feel for how the game plays, most levels can be sped through. It also helps if you play the game on Practice difficulty, like I did, by accident, because I was going through the options and I forgot to change the difficulty back to Normal...
But this doesn't invalidate the game itself, even if it's played on Practice or Hard. The challenges are subtle and with higher difficulties, the a high risk of losing a hit point. In lower difficulties, it reaches "speedrun" territory as taking damage offers a generous amount of "i-frames." Entire sections of hazards can be avoided by abusing this and some strats are only possible in the easier difficulties. That said, there's a challenge that lurks behind the game's "cutesy" exterior and it all comes together in the final stage.
Spoilers Ahead (No Seriously)
Upon defeating the leader of the NoGood Pirates in the volcano stage, she points you to the source of the crystal high in the icy mountains. As you reach the summit and for the crystal, you are stopped by none other than Oinky the Friendly Shopkeep. Except it's not Oinky the Friendly Shopkeep but rather the CEO of the bank that has put everyone in debt. The gemstone that your crew and the pirate crew were fighting over was just a lure for the CEO to look for the stone and keep it for himself. The final level is actually the CEO's headquarters high atop the Bank itself.
The transition from "island platformer" to "Streets of Rage-tier Mr. X Final Boss" was humorously brilliant. There were several tells that "Oinky" wasn't as prosperous as they seem. For one, he sold an item that was nothing but famous quotes. Rubbish. Two, he was oddly specific in where to set up shop, almost as if he was following you. After the big reveal, you enter the final level which is a culmination of everything the game threw at you. Death pits, hazards, and tight spaces await including a mini boss-fight with a Voltron-esque golden pig. The final boss is a smorgasbord of weapons, lasers, and other gimmicks. It's the easiest fight in the game as the Top Pig himself does not move.
Once players overcome the obstacle course and defeat the boss, the leader of the Pirates reappears and saves Dandy and Randy. Afterward, they use the money they plundered during their adventure and go on a six-month vacation, preluding to future money troubles. The game ends on this note and honestly, I don't know how to feel about it.
Spoilers End Here
With a $6.99 price tag, you cannot go wrong with Dandy & Randy DX's length. We looked at Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit In Wonder Labyrinth the other day and I'd like to take back what I said about that title. Deedlit is probably twice the length of this game, so it's twice the price naturally. I would like to make a defense case for "short games" because it's something I see all the time. This game is "short" so it's not "worth my money," when it shouldn't be like that. Games that aren't 2,000 hours long still serve their niche as a title you can come back to every now and again.
Dandy & Randy DX is one of those titles that someone will attempt to speedrun in the future upon discovering a "niche indie title," and it has all the makings for it. The music is awesome and catch, the story is very easy to follow, and its gameplay is to the point. It doesn't feel long enough to overstay its welcome, yet it's just the right length for one to enjoy in a sitting. I recommend it so long as the title is appreciated for what it is rather than grandiose expectations.
Dandy & Randy DX is available now on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.